Finding a good, quality burger in Korea is harder than you might expect. Beef, in general, isn’t widely available here, and when it is, it comes with a hefty price tag.
Another hurdle is the fact that, as a generalization, the local preferences as to what constitutes a good burger often conflicts with that of what a Westerner might seek. I tend to notice Koreans value the toppings, and like a lot (A LOT) of sauce, while I tend to go for the flavors of the beef patty itself.
I recently heard about a place that just opened (January 2020) in Haebangchon – a small neighborhood in the Itaewon area. I set off to Union Station (유니온스테이션 버거) to check it out.
Union Station Burger is tucked in a small side street near the Haebangchon Ogori. It is a 3-story building with great views of Namsan Seoul Tower and the nearby neighborhood. There is a beautiful rooftop that will be a great place to sit outside in the summer.
The interior of the restaurant is beautiful. Order on the 2nd floor, and then dine on the 3rd or 4th floor. The building is spotlessly clean, and seems to have just been remodeled. The restaurant has a train theme going on.
The different burgers have names with different American cities. The restaurant serves a variety of burgers, fish sandwiches, and chicken sandwiches. They also have fries (including sweet potato fries), onion rings, chicken wings, and different beverages.
The price listed is only for the burger itself. For an extra 6000 KRW, you can upgrade to french fries and a canned soft drink. You can also pay a bit more and substitute the soft drink for a draft beer.
I was especially excited for the ‘Seattle Burger’ – a fish sandwich with tartar sauce, sliced onion, and pickle (8500 KRW).
Their flagship burger, the New York, is described as “100% premium beef steak, American cheese, tomato, onion, romaine, and pickle’. The burger costs 15000 KRW.
However, for this review, I, along with a partner, decided to try the ‘California’ – which is described as ‘100% Premium beef patty, American cheese, jalapeno, lettuce, tomato, sliced onion.’ This burger does not have a bun, and instead is served as a Keto-friendly lettuce wrap. This burger came in at 8000 KRW – the cheapest on the menu.
In total, we spent 32000 KRW for two burgers, two fries, one canned soda, and one draft beer. Definitely not a cheap meal – so I had high expectations.
The burgers were served in approximately 10 minutes. They came out on a tray and were well-presented.
When I saw the ‘Seattle’ burger – I just couldn’t resist. Unfortunately, it can be quite difficult to find a good fish sandwich (since McDonald’s doesn’t sell the Filet of Fish here! Grr).
The bun was well toasted on both sides. It was topped with a nice amount of American cheese (which wasn’t listed on the menu, but was as welcome addition none-the-less), two fried fish fillets, a heaping amount of sliced red onion, and a sauce made with mustard grains.
Overall, the fish was well-cooked, and the bun was soft while also being nicely toasted. The onions were a bit overpowering, and I had to take some of them off.
The menu listed tartar sauce and pickle – but neither of those appeared on the sandwich. The sauce they used, while tasty, was just too strong on the delicate fish. I would prefer a simple, traditional tartar sauce.
The California burger was a bit better. The toppings were fresh. The burger patty had that nice beef flavor, and was quite juicy. However, the burger itself could have used a healthy amount of seasoning. It seemed like the kitchen was afraid to use salt when preparing the meal. I would have also liked some type of sauce on the burger (perhaps mayonnaise) – though that might take away from the ‘California’ vibe of the sandwich.
I was surprised at the amount of fries that came with the sandwich. They were a bit more cooked than I would have liked, but not a big deal. However, again – it seemed like there was zero salt added to them. The fries would have been a million times better with a healthy shaking of the salt shaker.
Overall, Union Station Burger is a place with a lot of potential. They have a beautiful building, and can definitely become a place that locals and foreigners seek out. However, as they have only been open a month, they might need a bit more time to fine-tune their recipes and and menu. The meals are “almost there” – but still miss the mark in certain aspects.
One thing I would love to see them add to the menu is MILKSHAKES! A burger, fries, and a delicious milkshake would be my go-to place in the Haebangchon area, for sure!